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Local Quakers invite public to informational talks in October

By Kim Walter - kwalter@nvdaily.com

Community members will have the chance to learn more about Quakers - who they are, what they believe, how they worship and how they live their lives - during four public talks in October.

The talks will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 10, 17 and 24 at the Centre Meeting House in old town Winchester. There, the Hopewell Centre Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends will focus on different topics, share their own experiences and hold a question and answer session.

The first talk's theme is "Quakers, My Spiritual Home: How I Got Here, Why I Stayed."

Richard Cooper, the co-clerk of advancement and outreach, has been attending the meeting since he went to similar public talks held three years ago. Before going to the talks, Cooper had been interested in Quakers, but had only done his own reading and research.

"I went to college thinking I'd be a religion or philosophy professor, so I could learn the answers to those 'big questions,'" he said. "Well, I figured out that you can't learn that in college, but I was still interested in those big picture ideas."

Cooper, who was raised a Southern Baptist and then stopped attending church during college and for almost 40 years after, said the talks were "interesting and enjoyable."

"I actually got to meet people who had similar experiences as me," he said. "It was much more personal than informational."

A majority of active Quaker members came from different religious backgrounds, and had hit a point in their life where they searched for something more, Cooper said.

"I found that it offered more than other traditions, and I like the lack of form and creeds," he said. "Some folks like the liturgical services and sacraments, but others find they are put off by it."

The talks are also a good way for the meeting to get themselves out into the community, something that Quakers aren't really known for, he added.

"Quakers started in a time of a lot of religious tension, and so they tried to separate themselves from the society around them," he said. "It's not that way anymore."

The talks will address the group's method of silent worship, as well as Quaker testimonials, or ways the members have found to express in the real world what matters, according to Martha Henley. The silent worship consists of an hour during which members sit, noiseless, unless they otherwise feel called to speak. Each of the four talks will begin with a 15-minute sampling of the silent worship.

Henley has been a member of the meeting for more than 20 years, and was part of the planning committee for the public talks.

"I was drawn to the emphasis on simplicity and peace," she said. "I was also surprised at how easy the silence can become ... it can be very difficult to find in this day and age."

Henley said the last round of talks generated positive feedback from those who attended. She said she feels that there are still those out there "who are curious ... searching, thinking."

Anyone is welcome to the talks, which are free. Light refreshments will be served and informative Quaker material will be available. For more information, go to www.hopecentre.quaker.org.

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